Someone had once said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” We hear in this morning’s gospel about a man who didn’t make excuses. He wasn’t a very good man. He was a tax collector, and like most tax collectors in his day, he wasn’t very honest. But when Jesus was passing through Jericho this tax collector named Zacchaeus rushes to the streets to catch a glimpse of Him. The problem was the streets were filled with people, there was a large crowd and as St. Luke tells us in his gospel narrative Zacchaeus was “of short stature”. Therefore there was no way he could see Jesus. Yet, this man was filled with such a burning desire to see Him that nothing was going to stop him. So he climbs a sycamore tree in order to catch a glimpse of Him.
At another place in the gospel (Mark 2:1-12) we read about a paralytic who also wanted to see Jesus. He, on the other hand, wanted to see Him for a specific reason, he wanted to be healed of his sickness. And so four of his friends carried him to the house where Jesus was teaching. But once they arrived they discover a similar problem, the house was overfilled with people and there was simply no way to carry their paralytic friend near Jesus. But, they too, didn’t give up. Instead, they climbed onto the roof and lowered their friend down where Jesus was able to see him and heal him.
We can find more examples in the Holy Scripture very similar to these of people who, quite simply, didn’t give up that easily, people who didn’t make excuses. This, I think, should tells us much about our own salvation. For, ultimately, we are the ones in control of our own salvation and subsequently no one else will have to given an answer for why we didn’t go to church, why we didn’t say our prayers, our help our neighbor, or give to the needy and so on.
It is our own responsibility.
The greatness of this tax collector from this morning’s gospel, this man named Zacchaeus, was in the fact that he was “short in stature”. He knew he was short, he knew very well that there was something stopping him from reaching his goal of seeing Jesus. And I suppose if he hadn’t seen Him he would have a valid excuse. But, he didn’t let it stop him. A huge part in our salvation is in us knowing and admitting the same thing. Admitting that we have a weakness. With it we recognize the fact that we need God. Just as our Lord says at one place in the gospels “if you seek, you will find it” (Luke 11:9), in the example of Zacchaeus we see someone who sought God and God found him. The evangelist writes that as Jesus was passing that way He “looked up and saw Him.”
Rudyard Kipling wrote once: “We have forty million reasons for failure but not a single excuse.” From a Christian prespective we can never have an excuse because if we seek God He will always find us. Every year the church begins preparing us for Lent with a series of Sundays which will begin next week with the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. And every year on the Sunday before the Publican and the Pharisee we hear this gospel about the tax collector named Zacchaeus.
It is together with Zacchaeus that we too are all called this morning to climb that sycamore tree and look ahead to the coming weeks which will prepare us from Lent; to look even further to Great Lent which is slowly approaching us. For it is God who wants to find a place in the homes of hearts as well. He wants to bring us salvation.
And we truly have no excuse not to go and seek Him.